While news of the birth of HRH Prince George was officially broken via an emailed press release rather than via Twitter, it remains undeniable that the future king was born into a social media world.

Modern parenting has been transformed by the internet. The growth and vibrancy of online communities like Mumsnet has made raising a child an almost collective experience for some. The proliferation of mummy blogs five years ago was bewildering to many brands and agencies, but as some of us predicted, the cream has risen to the top, making it easier to develop relationships with sites that command real influence and eyeballs.

Brands have also been able to create their own communities of parents via Facebook in particular, with these types of pages generating some of the strongest levels of conversation and engagement. My agency’s work with Mothercare has shown that building the size of a Facebook community to a critical mass, coupled with clear rules for community management, delivers both ‘return on interest’ for the consumer and ‘return on investment’ for the brand.

” The challenge remains engaging mums through content”

The influence of social media sites on parental purchasing decisions continues on an upward trend. Research conducted recently by YouGov into the habits of mums aged 18-44 found that 40% had decided to purchase a product after reading a review or comment on a parenting forum, blog or Facebook page. Almost a third (31%) had decided against purchasing a product for the same reasons.

The research also found that one in four mums surveyed say they visit parenting forums, blogs and the Facebook and Twitter accounts of parenting/children’s brands specifically to hear about special offers, discounts and promotions. When asked what types of products they would be most interested in reading about, the top three categories were toys (36%), baby/children’s food and drink (33%) and baby/children’s medicines and health care (28%).

While it is reassuring to know that there is a willingness among mums to read about brands on social sites and that what they read can have a powerful effect on what they spend, the marketing challenge remains engaging with them through content that really earns their interest rather than bombarding with overly commercial messages.

Examining my own Facebook newsfeed this week, I have to say most of the attempts by brands to jump on the royal birth have unfortunately fallen into this latter category. Like raising a child, building a real community of mummy advocates requires education, entertainment, stamina and patience.

Daljit Bhurji is MD of integrated communications consultancy, Diffusion